gg S. POLEVOI
The older boy, still holding the axe, approached Alexei,
kicked the pistol farther away with his huge felt boot—it
was probably his father's—and said:
"You are an airman, you say. Have you got any
papers? Let's look!"
"Who is here, our people or Germans? Alexei asked
in a whisper, smiling in spite of himself.
"How do I know, living here in the forest? Nobody
reports to me," answered the older boy diplomatically.
Alexei had no alternative but to put his hand in his
tunic pocket and take out his identity card. The sight of
the red officer's card with the star on the cover had a
magical effect upon the youngsters. It was as if their
childhood, which they had lost during the German oc-
cupation, was suddenly returned to them by the ap-
pearance of one of their own beloved Soviet airmen.
"Yes, yes, our people are here. They've been here for
"Why are you so skinny?"
".. .Our men gave them such a licking! Didn't they
give it to them, though! There was a terrible big fight
here! And an awful lot of them were killed. Awful!"
".. .And didn't they run! It was funny to see 'em.
One of them harnessed a horse to a washtub and rode
off in it. Two of them, wounded they were, held on to
a horse's tail and another rode on its back, like a baron.
You should have seen them! . .. How did they shoot you
After chattering for a while, the youngsters got busy.
They said that they lived about five kilometres away.
Alexei was so weak that he could not even turn over to lie
more comfortably on his back. The sleigh, which the lads
had brought to get brushwood at the "German lumber
camp", as they called the clearing, was too small to take
Alexei; and besides, he would have been too heavy for
them to haul over the untrodden snow. The older boy,
whose name was Seryonka, told his brother Fedka to run
to the village as fast as he could for help, while he re-
mained to guard Alexei from the Germans, as he
explained, but actually because, in his heart, he did not
tr?rStc^m' "Y°U can never tell»" he th°ught to him-
self. These fascists are a sly lot—they can pretend to